Kaleb Walker stands in front of Rapid City High School in Rapid City, South Dakota, where he transferred to from Sturgis-Brown High School in Sturgis, as a result of the bullying and racism he suffered at the hands of staff and students. Photo by Richie Richards

Native Sun News Today: Student speaks out about racism in South Dakota school

Former Sturgis student speaks up about racism

By Richie Richards
Native Sun News Today Correspondent

RAPID CITY – The racism and hate caused one Native American student at Sturgis-Brown High School to change schools.

Rapid City High School senior, Kaleb Walker, 17, transferred out of Sturgis-Brown High School following a year of bullying and physical intimidations according to the student-athlete who plays lacrosse.

As an adoptee, Walker has had his share of trials while growing up in a white home. As a Lakota youth, his adopted family has kept his heritage a part of his upbringing.

During the 2016-2017 school year, Kaleb Walker had decided to “try something different” and go to Sturgis-Brown High School at the urging of friends. He would soon come to regret that decision.

It was during homecoming week at Sturgis-Brown in which photos had gone viral of non-Native students violently damaging a vehicle with “go back to the rez” spray painted on the passenger side doors. This angered many in the Native American community and by Friday all homecoming events had been canceled as a result of these actions by students.

“Whenever I saw ‘go back to the rez’, I was pretty angry,” said Walker. “I told some of my friends that, that school is like that. They’re racist. They discriminate. They discriminated against me.”

The image on the left is a screenshot of a Snapchat post of a Sturgis-Brown High School student standing next to the car. The post contained a hashtag with profanity directed against the Pine Ridge Reservation. The image on the right is of two students standing on top of the car, bashing it with sledgehammers. More on Native Sun News Today: Looking back on Sturgis racial incident

According to Walker, his sophomore year at Sturgis-Brown was spent in intimidation, violence and racism. “The whole last year, I was telling everyone they don’t like me here. They called me names. They keep looking at me differently and keep pushing me out of their community,” said the youngest of four adopted siblings.

When Walker saw the recent social media postings with the “car smashing”, it triggered in him the anguish and pain he suffered as one of just a few Native Students who attend Sturgis-Brown.

“Honestly, it made me feel two different ways. It made me feel angry, like really, really mad. And it also brought relief. The only reason it brought relief is because it showed everyone else what Sturgis is like; how they act against Native Americans,” Walker said, “but I was happy it was pushed out on social media for everyone to see.”

Walker claims the racism and bullying began immediately at SBHS. “It was the first day. I walked down to go to my class and no one helped me. Everyone looked at me dirty. I had my Native American sweater lacrosse sweater on and they looked down on me,” he said.

One of the main groups of students who bullied Walker were the “jocks.” Some of the student athletes tormented him. The “dirty looks” and name calling soon turned to violence.

“It was after I finished class. I was walking down the hallway to lunch and there was this big guy. He just bumped me and said, ‘dirty Indian’. He just walked away and I heard him giggle with his other friends,” said Walker who stood in stunned silence following the shoulder shove.

The 17-year old athlete tried out for the SBHS basketball team. As the tallest and one of the best players, he felt his chances were good at making the junior varsity team. His experience on the court began at a young age. “I first started playing basketball when I was 8 or 9 years old. I started at the YMCA here in Rapid (City) with the friends I grew up with at Horace Mann (Elementary School). I was pretty good. I always practiced. I always played with my friends,” said the youngest of four siblings.

The head basketball coach also taught math at SBHS. Walker felt the coach harassed him and bullied him during try outs. “I did exactly what he asked me to do. There was about 30 kids that tried out. I went for JV (Junior Varsity basketball team). I’m a good basketball player and those kids are good too, but I know I could’ve made the team and everyone there told me I should’ve made the team.

Walker realizes that his height alone could have secured him a spot on the JV team. “I was the tallest one who tried out. JV would’ve been O.K. as long as I made the team,” he said humbly.

One particular incident stands out to the drug and alcohol-free teen. After a long night of playing lacrosse with friends, Walker went to school tired and was falling asleep in his English class.

“We were practicing and we went late into the night. I woke up super tired. I was sore and I went to school. I was in my English class and I was falling asleep. My teacher immediately thought I smoked weed. She told the head principal and the assistant principal,” Walker said.

Support Native media and read the rest of the story on the Native Sun News Today website: Former Sturgis student speaks up about racism

Contact Native Sun News Today Correspondent Richie Richards at richie4175@gmail.com

Copyright permission Native Sun News Today

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